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Ancient Near East facts for kids

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Gudea of Lagash Girsu
Seating diorite statue of Gudea, Prince of Lagash - neo-Sumerian period

The Ancient Near East is considered one of the cradles of civilization. It was here that intensive year-round agriculture was first practiced, leading to the rise of the first dense urban settlements and the development of many familiar institutions of civilization, such as social stratification, centralized government and empires, organized religion and organized warfare.

It also saw the creation of the first writing system, the first alphabet (abjad), the first currency in history, and law codes, early advances that laid the foundations of astronomy and mathematics, and the invention of the wheel.

Early Copper Age pottery, Museum of Western Bohemia in Pilsen, 187736
Early Copper Age pottery

During the period, states became increasingly large, until the region became controlled by militaristic empires that had conquered a number of different cultures.

Ancient civilizations in the Near East were deeply influenced by their spiritual beliefs, which generally did not distinguish between heaven and Earth. They believed that divine action influenced all matters, and also believed in divination (ability to predict the future). Omens were often inscribed in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, as were records of major events.

It was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia (modern Iraq, southeast Turkey, southwest Iran, northeastern Syria and Kuwait), ancient Egypt, ancient Iran (Elam, Media, Parthia and Persia)

Also, Anatolia/Asia Minor and Armenian Highlands (Turkey's Eastern Anatolia Region, Armenia, northwestern Iran, southern Georgia, and western Azerbaijan), the Levant (modern Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Jordan), Cyprus and the Arabian Peninsula.

The history of the ancient Near East begins with the rise of Sumer in the 4th millennium BC, though the date it ends varies. The term covers the Bronze Age and the Iron Age in the region, until either the conquest by the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC, that by the Macedonian Empire in the 4th century BC, or the Muslim conquests in the 7th century AD.

The phrase "ancient Near East" indicates the 19th-century difference between Near East and Far East as global regions of interest to the British Empire. The distinction began during the Crimean War.


Ancient Near East periodization is the attempt to categorize or divide time into named blocks, or eras, of the Near East.

Copper Age Chalcolithic
(4500 – 3300 BC)
Early Chalcolithic 4500 – 4000 BC Ubaid period in Mesopotamia
Late Chalcolithic 4000 – 3300 BC Ghassulian, Sumerian Uruk period in Mesopotamia, Gerzeh, Predynastic Egypt, Proto-Elamite
Bronze Age
(3300 – 1200 BC)
Early Bronze Age
(3300 – 2100 BC)
Early Bronze Age I 3300 – 3000 BC Protodynastic to Early Dynastic Period of Egypt, settlement of Phoenicians
Early Bronze Age II 3000 – 2700 BC Early Dynastic Period of Sumer
Early Bronze Age III 2700 – 2200 BC Old Kingdom of Egypt, Akkadian Empire, early Assyria, Old Elamite period, Sumero-Akkadian states
Early Bronze Age IV 2200 – 2100 BC First Intermediate Period of Egypt
Middle Bronze Age
(2100 – 1550 BC)
Middle Bronze Age I 2100 – 2000 BC Third Dynasty of Ur
Middle Bronze Age II A 2000 – 1750 BC Minoan civilization, early Babylonia, Egyptian Middle Kingdom
Middle Bronze Age II B 1750 – 1650 BC Second Intermediate Period of Egypt
Middle Bronze Age II C 1650 – 1550 BC Hittite Old Kingdom, Minoan eruption
Late Bronze Age
(1550 – 1200 BC)
Late Bronze Age I 1550 – 1400 BC Hittite Middle Kingdom, Hayasa-Azzi, Middle Elamite period, New Kingdom of Egypt
Late Bronze Age II A 1400 – 1300 BC Hittite New Kingdom, Mitanni, Hayasa-Azzi, Ugarit, Mycenaean Greece
Late Bronze Age II B 1300 – 1200 BC Middle Assyrian Empire, beginning of the high point of Phoenicians
Iron Age
(1200 – 539 BC)
Iron Age I
(1200 – 1000 BC)
Iron Age I A 1200 – 1150 BC Troy VII, Hekla 3 eruption, Bronze Age collapse, Sea Peoples
Iron Age I B 1150 – 1000 BC Neo-Hittite states, Neo Elamite period, Aramean states
Iron Age II
(1000 – 539 BC)
Iron Age II A 1000 – 900 BC Greek Dark Ages, traditional date of the United Monarchy of Israel
Iron Age II B 900 – 700 BC Kingdom of Israel, Urartu, Phrygia, Neo-Assyrian Empire, Kingdom of Judah, first settlement of Carthage
Iron Age II C 700 – 539 BC Neo-Babylonian Empire, Median Empire, fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Phoenicia, Archaic Greece, rise of Achaemenid Persia
Classical antiquity
(539 BC – 634 AD)
Achaemenid 539 – 330 BC Persian Achaemenid Empire
Hellenistic & Parthian 330 – 31 BC Macedonian Empire, Seleucid Empire, Kingdom of Pergamon, Ptolemaic Kingdom, Parthian Empire
Roman & Persian 31 BC – 634 AD Roman–Persian Wars, Roman Empire, Parthian Empire, Sassanid Empire, Byzantine Empire, Muslim conquests

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